"When I came to Danebank, I asked you to write me a letter - to tell me about you, what you loved about Danebank and anything you’d like to share. Many of you shared from your heart and spoke of things that were for me only to read. I think it is only fitting at this time that I share from my heart too. So, dear ones, here is my letter to you, written from my heart as a letter and encouragement and hopefully something that will spur you on as you sail towards your great adventure in life; to a life well lived."

Dr Emma Burgess
Dr Emma Burgess

Dearest Class of Year 12

When I joined Danebank in January 2020, you welcomed me with a warmth that is anchored in our Christian faith. I personally experienced what so many girls have told me since … I have found a second home. At the heart of this unique community is a quiet confidence and a sense of belonging, born out of the nurturing care, faith and empowerment we share as a community of girls and women.

Girls, you have astounded me from the moment I first met you - as beautiful, strong and courageous young women. I am thankful that I had the honour and opportunity to walk with you as you close this chapter.

At the beginning of the year I shared a metaphor with our community which likened Danebank to a ship. We talked about the nature of our Danebank ship, that it is strong, sturdy and secured by able crew and officers. We considered everything we needed to undertake to keep our ship sailing forward and well. 2020 was to be your year. It held great promise, that as your final year of school, we would sail forward to an isle of great adventure, filled with fulfilled promises, rites of passage and long-held dreams and traditions.

We were positioned in still waters, looking out to a sea of possibilities; ready to chart our way into the future. There was encouragement for us, that God is for us and that He will protect us, comfort us and guide us as we sail onwards.   As leaders of our school, you set our direction for 2020: Seeing You, Seeing Us, Seeing Me. Your team of trusty Captains and Lieutenants were there to guide, cheer you on and support! Soon the joy of student laughter filled our corridors, grounds and rooms.

Setting Sail

As we set sail in late January and with our guiding compass before us, we could never have imagined the new waters that we found ourselves in. We hit a major storm! ‘You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them’ -Psalm 89:9.  Despite the backdrop of the ever-changing and unpredictable swelling COVID-19 waves, our crew navigated the new waters well.

Significant shifts and tacks, from face-to-face learning, to distance and back again, were made with grace and determination. You embraced the challenge and learnt about your reserves, capacity and resilience, despite sailing through high winds. You, along with our community, remained hopeful, optimistic and excited about our outlook spurred on by the words of Charles Spurgeon that “…none that sail with Jesus have ever been stranded yet”.

With the safe return of face-to-face learning our community entered into new waves of managing the pandemic, always with the wellbeing and safety of our girls and staff at heart. We demonstrated great flexibility and adaptability as we embraced creative Covid-safe alternatives to activities and continued to learn and thrive.

As the Class of 2020, you soared to great heights and made us very proud. Routines continued and strong relationships flourished. I have been continually amazed by your inspiring, warm, supportive and engaging year group. No matter what the circumstance, there is an abiding commitment to excellence in thinking, learning, care and service. These pillars of wellbeing and learning, underpinned by a firm Christian foundation and culture of excellence, the hallmarks of our school, clearly also upholds you … our Class of 2020.

Sailing forward

So, girls it is - and has been - an extraordinary privilege to walk beside you as you start to discover who you are as a young adult, as you develop resilience and wellbeing, and as you dream of some of the things you’d like to do.

As you sail forward, I leave you three thoughts:

 1. Let hope be your anchor.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. - Hebrews 6:13-20. An anchor is the principle support or the mainstay for the ship. It is reliable, secure and causes you to stay in the same place so won’t drift away or off course.

Girls, there will be good and bad in life. Sometimes calm and sometimes stormy. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us of the different times in life: time for birth, death, plant, uproot, weep and laugh, mourn or dance. I can’t protect you from the things that are going to happen in your life: the good or the bad. I can’t stop your parents from divorcing, I can’t stop you being let down, I can’t stop sickness, I can’t stop COVID-19. But I can help you see that there is always hope. An anchor to your soul. Hope says, it is not the end. There is always another way, there is always hope here.

Hope is a great constant. Not unrealistic hope, wishful thinking or even expectant hope (although that is good). It’s a certain hope, anchored in Christ and what He has done for you that will be strong, firm and secure for you. You’ve learnt that in the sea of life, everything can be looking great and then suddenly out of nowhere, something comes up that you didn’t expect. Remember, you are not at the mercy of the waves and perils of the sea. We have a hope that is firm and secure. Jesus is an anchor for your souls.

Mightier than the waves of the sea, Is His love for you. - Psalm 93: 4

 2. Don’t fight against the current

Fighting against the current is futile and gets you no-where. It can lead you to nowhere or it can lead you into danger. Go with the things that come naturally to you. Pursue your passions and interests. Use what is in your hand to fulfill what is in your heart. Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself.

Passion doesn’t just arrive. It is uncovered through action and work. When I was 15 to 18, I didn’t have a passion for girls’ education. I loved learning and was tossing up between law and teaching. I chose teaching as it is something that came naturally to me - I loved learning. Over time and hard work, I developed a passion for education and educating girls in particular.

Don't compare yourself to others. Sail and embrace your own life. Live your life and live what God has for you. God says: “I know the plans I have for you … prosper and not harm, a future and a hope.” - Jeremiah 29: 11 Fighting the current isn’t just about your career - it can be about all sorts of things in life, like mental health too.

Even if you are down, unwell, or suffering mental health, don’t go against the current or pretend it isn’t happening. Accept it, express it, move with it, get help and get stronger. Sometimes it takes a while to get better. That’s OK. It might not disappear but there are always tools, keys and supports to help and improve. You’ll move from a 3 out of 10 to a 5 then 6 and 8. It will be OK. It gets better. I promise.

3. Love the adventure of the sea

School has been like the harbour, but be encouraged, the open sea is a wonderful place, full of adventure, discovery, and joy. Don’t stay in the harbour. Go out into the open sea. That is where the adventure is. Be courageous, you were made for this. Life is a wonderful adventure. Feel the breeze, enjoy the moments, look at the stars, soak up the heavens and the joy. Discover the creatures and the new islands, new friends, challenges and opportunities. There will be wonderful ports and places to visit. Be like Moana from the Disney movie, confidently go past the reef - you’ve got this.

Sailing in life takes courage and great strength. You have to pull up and drop anchors, tie knots, let out sails, trim them, cleat off lines. On the ship, there is always something to do. Better to be a joiner than an observer. Join in and support one another - it's going to be amazing.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain.

All my love, Dr Burgess.

See the video of our Class of 2020 as they walk through the guard of honour.